We frequently hear about the dangers of distracted driving or driving while under the influence, but there’s another form of dangerous driving that’s just as scary. It’s not as widely talked about but driving while you’re tired can have some serious consequences.
Drowsy driving is a form of impaired driving, just like driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol that can hinder your judgment and reaction time. Each year, drowsy drivers cause 100,000 motor vehicle accidents, 40,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities in the United States. In Washington state, there were 64 fatal crashes and 308 serious injury accidents from 2011 to 2015 as a result of drowsy driving.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) suggests these easy steps to prevent drowsy driving:
- Take a break every two hours or every 100 miles.
- Don’t drive if you’ve been awake for 24 hours or more.
- Share the driving. Make a schedule and switch every couple of hours.
- Get plenty of rest the night before.
- Avoid medication and other substances that may make you tired.
- Drink something with caffeine.
- Pull over in a safe location to rest or nap.
- Don’t rely on the radio or other distractions to keep you awake.
The NSF also suggests that you watch for signs that you’re too tired to be driving. You might need to pull off the road if you find you’re:
- Having trouble focusing
- Drifting from your lane
It’s important to take drowsy driving seriously. It’s not only dangerous, but in the state of Washington, it’s illegal to drive while you’re drowsy. If you fall asleep at the wheel, you’ll be facing a fine of $550 and a charge of negligent driving.
While there are certain groups more at risk for driving while tired–commercial truck drivers, young people under age 26 and night shift workers–all drivers need to be aware of the signs and hazards. Driving while you’re sleepy puts you and those you share the road with in danger. If you have any doubt, make the right choice to pull off the road.